In his first post for Turfhugger, Jason Haines of Pender Harbour Golf Club in the rugged Sunshine Coast of BC, describes how he tries to understand the underlying reasons for the health of his turf and not mask a problem by using preventative treatments. Haines has been in the turf industry since 2001 and graduated from Fairview college's Turfgrass Management Technology program in 2005. While not at the golf course Haines volunteers with the Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue.
Welcome to Turfhugger Jason.
Scott J Morrison.
For years we as turfgrass managers have been taught to make preventative pesticide applications. The logic behind this was that if you could prevent the problem you would in turn have to use less chemicals to control the pest. In some cases this is true. There are some pests out there that you just don't want to get. In the case of cool season turfgrass fungal diseases during the summer I think that you can afford to skip the preventatives and here's why.
When we get sick it is often for a reason. You get a cold because you forgot to wash your hands or touched something that was infected. You get heart problems because you smoked for 20 years and had a poor diet and ate deep fried everything for lunch. You get diabetes because you ate too much sugars when you were young. Out turf is exactly the same. When it gets sick there is often a reason why. There are many things that can kill our grass but where I'm from (West Coast of Canada) our main threat to the health of our turfgrass comes from fungi.
|Dollar spot is a fungus that can wreak havoc|
on poorly maintained putting greens.
So if we are making preventative fungicide applications we aren't seeing the active disease. The poor growing conditions are still there but we are covering up our poor management with fungicides. This active disease tells us a lot about what our turf is experiencing.
|Yellow patch usually doesn't harm the turf|
but it can tell you what could be done better!
At first sign of Dollar spot I know that my greens are probably dry and that I should irrigate in the middle of the night to knock off the dew. When I see Anthracnose I know that my greens are over-watered or under-fertilized. Who needs fancy dancy electronic tools when you have fungi?
We need to change the way we think about pests on turfgrass. I see the disease on my turf as my most valuable tool for maintaining healthy turfgrass. By spraying preventatives I am basically throwing away my most valuable tool as a turf manager.
When I use less chemicals on my greens I have less surprises. Covering up the poor conditions of your turfgrass with chemicals will only make the infection worse and more severe when it has the chance to infect. If you have no chemicals on your turf the initial infection will be less sever because the environmental conditions on your turf don't change that rapidly. Compaction slowly builds, drought doesn't happen overnight, irrigation systems don't over-water, trees don't decide to shade your turf on a whim, thatch doesn't appear in a week, layering in your soil happens over years, etc.
|Early sign of Fusarium on putting greens. This|
particular infection took a month to cause
significant damage that would warrant a
corrective fugicide application
Here's my challenge to everyone. Let the disease and pests on your course tell you what's wrong. Don't kill them, use them to make your grass better!